The Compleat Apple Pie…Deconstructed

Re-posting from a few years ago, one of my faves.

Your apple pie tutorial.
An apple pie with attitude.

If you are one of the many boys and girls (OK, adults) who’ve never made an apple pie from scratch and you don’t want to meet the Grim Reaper without having made at least one perfect apple pie, you’ve come to the right place.

I’m right here, holding your hand, gently walking you through all the steps and twists and turns to create the best apple pie you will ever eat. Guaranteed.

I know you can do it! Once you’ve mastered one pie start to finish, you will never be afraid of a little old piecrust again. Pinky swear.

The Apples
The apples you choose are of the utmost importance. They need to be firm and tart and able to stand up to the heat of a 425 degree oven without becoming mushy as the pie bakes. (For my Canandian friends, you’ll have to do the conversion–I’m not that smart.)

I like Granny Smith or Pippin apples for pies. Normally, that would be the green ones. Depending on the size of the apple, I like to use between 6-8 apples per pie.

apple1I enjoy making my pies the old fashioned way. I peel and slice the apples.

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Squeeze a little lemon juice over the slices for a pop of flavor and it’ll help keep the apples from turning brown.
apple3Unless I’m making apple jelly, I put the peels in the compost bin, and so should you!

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This is one time when I use white sugar and don’t feel guilty about it–about 2/3 cup or to taste. Some apples need more sweetness, some need less. The most important ingredient is cinnamon. The right amount of cinnamon elevates the apple pie to a higher level.  I use approximately 3-4 tablespoons. I do a lot of tasting, so it’s a good idea to add a little at a time and taste as you go. My family loves a LOT of cinnamon!

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When you feel that your apples and sugar and cinnamon have reached the zenith of blissful co-existence, sprinkle one tablespoon all-purpose flour over the apples and mix lightly.

stressed is dessert spelled backwardsDon’t be afraid, don’t desert me before the dessert is complete–watch and learn!

It’s not that difficult. It’s like many things in life. Once you try something new and master it, you lose the fear of the unknown.apple8

I like my mom’s favorite cookbook for old-fashioned recipes.

The Crust
It’s not rocket science. This is a tried and true basic recipe for a two-crust pie. I don’t like to use butter in this crust because I don’t want any other flavors to taint the apple+cinnamon perfection. I know you can use a food processor and it cuts the time in half but sometimes the most satisfying part of baking is to be fully immersed in the process as much as the final results!

For a nine-inch pie pan:
Mix together…
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
Cut in…
2/3 cup shortening
Sprinkle with…
Four tablespoons water

What does “cut in” mean? It means you need to distribute the shortening into the flour so that the particles become the size of peas. This is what makes pastry flaky. pastry-blenderUse a pastry blender to cut shortening into flour. If you don’t have one, use two knives and this technique: holding a knife in each hand with blades almost touching, move knives back and forth in opposite directions in a parallel cutting motion. The side of a fork or a wire whisk works, too.

apple11 Mix only until all ingredients are worked in. If you overwork pastry dough, it’ll become tough. Sprinkle the water in a tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with a fork until all the flour is moistened. Gather dough together and press into two balls for the upper and bottom crust.apple12

Flour the board or counter and the rolling pin so the dough won’t stick. There are all kinds of fancy schmancy rolling pins–I’ve been really happy with this old wooden one. Flatten the balls with your hand. Roll each ball into a sort of circle; don’t go all crazy thinking it has to be perfect at this point. If it breaks or tears, just pinch and push it back together–about 1/8 inch thick. For an apple pie, I think the bottom crust needs to be a bit more sturdy than the top crust–roll accordingly.

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Roll into a circle two inches larger than pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and sides.

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Pile high with the yummy apples.

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Redo the same steps with the other round for the top crust. Cut off the extra dough that hangs over–leaving enough to fold under.

You can either crimp the edges…piecrustedges

or use a fork. Dip fork tines in flour; press tines onto edge of dough. Poke with fork or knife all around to release steam as it bakes.apple18

I wanted to add an enchanted seashell embellishment to the final version.

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I molded leftover dough over a scallop shell, cut off the excess, and placed it on the pie.

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It will bake quicker than the pie–remember to take it out after about ten minutes and place it back on the pie before serving.

I always bake pies on a cookie sheet because they will invariably ooze and turn your oven into a burning, sticky, smoky mess that can set off a smoke alarm and that’s always annoying!apple19

Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes or so until it’s bubbly and the crust is beautifully browned.

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Yummy!

apple21“Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”
(Norma Desmond, Sunset Blvd.)

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Come on, add this to your list of goals for 2013 and let me know how it turns out!

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Happy Valentine’s Day | For Chocolate Lovers | Vegan Lentil Brownies

I’ve had a bit of success with Black Bean & Beet Brownies and Lentil Cookies but I’ve never tried simply Lentil Brownies, so I baked some this morning before it got too hot to have the oven on.

They look good, right? But the real question is how do they taste?

If you’ve ever had Black Bean Brownies, you might have detected a slightly weird beany texture, so I hoped this lentil version would eliminate that.

These brownies are TRULY surprisingly yummy! They’re very moist and chocolate-y. I can’t tell they contain lentils, which IS a wonderful source of protein, so this is also a healthy snack.

Tips:
1. Really cook the lentils until they’re mushy.
2. Refrigerate the pan for at least a couple hours after frosting before cutting and eating.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Seriously Amazing *Vegan* Herb Crackers

Since we’re in a seemingly neverending spiral of virus mutations, the unvaccinated, and overworked healthcare professionals, I’m still trying to limit my exposure to PEOPLE. Not that it’s too difficult for me as I’m solitary by nature, but it’s still kind of annoying.

I had done my Traders shopping and when I came home, I realized that I had totally forgotten to get the kind of crackers I love to accompany Miyoko’s vegan cream cheese. Read about my love for THAT here: https://enchantedseashells.com/2021/04/06/yum-miyokos-vegan-cream-cheese/

Instead of doing what was normal practice in the old days, I didn’t run out and make that one purchase. Resourceful me decided to bake my own crackers. I haven’t done that in years and it’s so easy, I wonder why it took me this long to remember that! An added plus is no wasted plastic or containers, so I’m helping the environment too…

Tips: I substituted 1/2 cup buckwheat flour for all purpose flour. Next time I won’t do that because buckwheat is such a strong flavor. While it’s lovely in pancakes and soba noodles, it’s a bit too much here.

On the other hand, I gotta say that the smell of the herbs in the oven was so fragrant! It perfumed the entire house. I used all the herbs I have in the garden, but you can add whatever you like, including poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds. **Roll extremely thin for crispiest crackers. I didn’t cut them in perfect shapes or use a pizza cutter because I was too lazy and wanted them done in a hurry, but I kind of like the rustic look.

Ginger-Lime Quick Bread **Vegan**

All that rain we had yesterday made it literally impossible NOT to bake, so I did.

We had about 1 1/2 inches of rain and our strongest winds were 45+ mph. Stores closed in our little village because of power outages and streets were flooded.

My friend’s lime tree exploded with limes last week, so now I have about fifty limes as a result of her generosity. I juiced A LOT OF THEM and froze in ice cube trays. These are the juicy sweet Mexican limes that are so amazing in margaritas and guacamole. LImes + tequila = heaven.

I created this recipe after reading tons of similar ones on the internet.

After the worst of the storm passed, it was still windy but FREEZING. A hot mug of fragrant ginger tea was just what I needed along with a couple slices of yummy Ginger-Lime bread.

It came out soo moist and tender, I definitely recommend and will make again and again.

PS I can’t change the recipe graphic but I forgot the amount of ginger tea. Should read 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup.

“Why are the cookies green, Grandma?”

UH OH. AB 2.0 is growing up. No longer does he simply shove as many cookies in his mouth as he can, or muffins, or cupcakes.

Now he’s more discerning and I hear these words and the skeptical tone in his voice, because he KNOWS why they’re green and he wants confirmation.

“Why are these cookies green, Grandma?”

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“Green? Do they look green to you?” I say, stalling for time to think of the right thing to say. I really wanted him to eat those cookies.

“I know why they’re green. Why do you put kale in EVERYTHING, Grandma?”

“Do you love kale more than me, Grandma?” (That’s a joke.)

The last time this happened Dad saved the day by interjecting, “They’re spooky cookies for Halloween, T! Aren’t they so scary and cool and yummy?”

Good one, Dad, I thought to myself. Our eyes wouldn’t meet or we’d both start laughing.

He ate them, but was definitely not trusting the veracity of the response.

OK it was a lie. There was LOADS of kale in my lentil oat raisin cookies, and I didn’t do a good enough job to disguise that fact. I’ll do better next time.

I don’t condone lying, but in this case, T doesn’t eat enough veggies and this has always been my secret weapon to make sure he eats greens so I’m satisfied that he gets a balanced diet. He’s a clone of his dad, very tall and very thin with a metabolism that I’d DIE for.

It’s the same thing we do with smoothies (I did it when Dad was little, too). I fill it chock full of veggies, but with the addition of blueberries or strawberries, it really masks the green. Don’t tell him, OK?

Thank goodness his little sister hasn’t yet learned to question the provenance of the muffins we just baked and didn’t see me slip a cup of chopped kale in the batter. She’ll eat pretty much anything. So far.

Here’s the recipe for Kale, I mean SPOOKY cookies…

November Edition: Convo #854 with the Angels | Letting Go of Expectations

I found what I THOUGHT was going to be a really fun cooking and art project to do with the Angels…and it didn’t actually turn out as expected.

Focaccia Bread Art is a newish trend where you decorate focaccia with fresh vegetables and herbs to make beautiful edible art. Have you heard of it? It was started during the pandemic shutdown by Teri Culetto. The self-proclaimed Vineyard Baker of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, started creating art with focaccia bread as her canvas.

Focaccia is simple to prepare (see recipe below). I made the dough and cut up all the veggies and herbs, olives and cheese and tofu, so the kids would each have their own canvas to decorate. I parboiled yams and cut them out as jack o’lanterns since it was around Halloween time and themes are always good.

Each child received dough and a platter filled with more than everything they might need because I knew that there would be a lot of eating going on at the same time and that was my secret plan.

Then all hell broke loose with the 5.5 and two-year-old. With only one rolling pin, there wasn’t a whole lot patience while one rolled and one waited, so I had to save the moment and a melt down by creating another one with a dowel I found.

One angel (less than angelic) didn’t like it because their plates were DIFFERENT colors, so I heard a lot of “It’s not fair! Why don’t I have the same exact one!”

Dad solved the issue (which I was planning to ignore) by getting the SAME EXACT plate and all hurt feelings were soothed. With only one child, I didn’t ever have to experience that kind of behavior so it was a learning experience for me, too.

It was such a fun project and they enjoyed themselves so much so we did it another time, too.

Here’s the result from their first attempt….and below it is what I THOUGHT they were going to create. Letting go of expectations and allowing them to create their own masterpieces was a wise decision for sure, even though my OCD was slightly triggered.

It didn’t matter what they looked like, The Angels were very proud of their creations and ate them all up, including all the veggies, so it really was a success!

Do you see any resemblance at all? Nope, me neither.

For more ideas, go to Instagram and search for Focaccia Art and try it yourself!

As you can see, it didn’t matter what it looked like, it was a fun project for the Angels in spite of the sibling rivalry.

Here’s my go-to easy Focaccia Recipe. Pizza dough works great, too

1 + 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. dry yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 TBS olive oil
Using a heavy duty mixer (or a strong arm) beat all ingredients together for about one minute. The dough will be wet and sticky but resist the urge to add more flour. With the dough hook (or your strong arm) start kneading until the dough becomes elastic. Scrape it into an oiled blow, cover and let rise under double, about two hours. When dough has doubled in size, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Turn dough onto well floured surface and divide into two equal parts. Flatten with your fingers into an 8-9 inch round or rectangle. I had the kids use a rolling pin at first and then they dimpled the dough with their fingers. Brush on olive oil and start decorating with all of your prepped ingredients. Be creative! Let rise for fifteen minutes. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven.

It’s a Pink Kitty Cat Kind of Day

“Owl or kitty cat, what will it be?”

“PINK!”

“What kind of birthday cake should I make for you? Pink owl or pink kitty cat?”

“Pink PIGGY!”

Too late, I already baked and decorated a little pink strawberry frosted kitty cat cake with a pink sparkly collar.

Two-years-old today; bright and beautiful.

This cake might not win any design awards at The Great British Baking Show, but it was a total hit with one particular little girl who loves the color pink and all kitty cats.

Happy Birthday, little princess!

Home is Where the Heat ISN’T

More shenanigans from the universe.

I planned to make a gigantic batch of oatmeal raisin cookies so the little people would never feel the disappointment of an empty cookie jar.

I’m on schedule with freshly made mango black cherry ice cream (a flavor request) chilling in the freezer.

Everything was going according to plan until I turned on the oven to preheat and nothing happened.

No heat, no nothing. The panel showed that it was on and preheating, but there was no heat.

UH OH. Those cookies aren’t going to bake themselves.

I was stuck with a batch of cookies all ready to go on two baking sheets with the rest of the mixture in the refrigerator waiting their turn, along with a batch of granola for my son.

I WAS IN PANIC MODE.

NOTNOWNOTNOWNOTNOWNOTNOW

No oven means no baking, no pizza, no lasagna–and that totally stresses me out because this grandma loves nothing more than to watch my kids and grandkids eat the food I lovingly prepare.

It’s a win-win for all of us!

I ran next door to my very very nice neighbors who fired up their oven so I could bake the cookies, (for the price of a few for them to eat, which is a fair exchange, an easy quid pro quo).

The cookies baked just fine, but the granola burned to a crisp. OMG, that’s never happened before.

The oven repairman is coming tomorrow and hopefully it’s not a major issue, but I have no idea what’s wrong.

Dear Universe,
Why? Why now?

Best Ever #Vegan Snickerdoodles

I had a hankering for some old fashioned Snickerdoodles just like I used to bake with my mom, only vegan this time.

I’ve been asked, so to clarify…yes, this is my pic I took of the just-baked Snickerdoodles, not a random Google photo.

I realize that a majority of my recipes are zero sugar and include all forms of kale and tofu and lentils; healthy and organic for the Angels, but they’re not here right now and I have truly eaten enough kale to last several lifetimes, haha.

I developed this recipe after doing tons of online research. The internet offers dozens of variations; some recipes include flax seeds, coconut sugar, and spelt/oat/amaranth/chickpea flours (including gluten free)–but I prefer to keep things simple.

My philosophy is that more people might want to try a vegan lifestyle if it’s not too complicated. At least at first, and then as one delves deeper into cruelty-free living, it’s fun to experiment with more exotic ingredients.

Gather ingredients; Cream of Tartar is the key to snickerdoodle’s unique flavor. I know it’s against all the rules to use Crisco shortening, but once in a while is OK, and it’s awesome for cookie texture.

I didn’t think anything could be better than my Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I was blissfully happy with the results of these crackly, chewy, intensely cinnamon-y full moon shaped pillows of satisfying spicy sweetness. (But not too sweet.)

If you have patience, let them cool for about ten minutes before eating, but if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to wait. I hope you try them and let me know your results.

My friend is going to drop off a bottle of imported vanilla so I’ll make them again, but I might still use the maple syrup because the maple flavor really enhanced the spicy cinnamon profile.

Caution: I go HEAVY on the cinnamon because I love it so much. If you don’t, adjust the amount to be mindful of your own tastebuds.

The BEST Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a friend who keeps bugging me to bake something so I decided to develop a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe.

My favorite kind of chocolate chip cookie is one that is 90% chocolate chips bound together by as little cookie dough as possible. The cookie dough is merely a vehicle to transport as many chips in my mouth as possible.

I think I achieved that today with this vegan recipe.

Assemble all ingredients first, this really saves time. I ran out of sea salt, so I had to use this kind…You could use coconut oil instead of veggie oil, but you’d have to melt it first, and I’m allergic to coconut and don’t really like it anyway. Another option is to use shortening or vegan butter, which is more traditional, and then it would be necessary to first cream the butter with the sugars.

(Recipe below with a cool Canva template.)

Combine sugars and wet ingredients.

Add dry ingredients and chips. Of course you can add fewer chocolate chips if you choose, or add nuts.

Cooling on the rack. I can’t wait to try them!

YUMMY. Crispy on the outside, chewy and sublimely chocolatey all the way around. Pretty much the PERFECT vegan chocolate chip cookie!